By Katie Roenigk, Daily News Staff WriterDuring Thursday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration at Washington State University, speakers took time to reflect on the reverend doctor’s message of nonviolence and community service that is commemorated on the third Monday in January each year.
“Dr. King never wavered from his focus … on non-violent change,” said Michael J. Tate, WSU’s chief diversity officer and special assistant to the provost in the Office of Equity and Diversity. “So it seems appropriate at this time … when in our nation and world there is war, strife and hatred happening, that we take time to re-dedicate ourselves to the ideals, the spirit and the legacy that Dr. King brought us several years ago.”
Pullman city manager John Sherman also chose to highlight the idea of “values over violence” that King developed. He challenged the audience in the Compton Union Building junior ballroom to examine their values this week to make sure they are treating people with dignity and respect as King directed during his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
“He talked about our founding fathers,” Sherman said of the speech. “They said all men have the basic rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. All of us are human beings, and we all need to be treated with that type of respect.”
One person’s actions – positive or negative – can have a significant impact on someone else’s life, and keynote speaker and assistant English professor Aaron Oforlea demonstrated that point with a question to the audience.
“How many of you encouraged your family members or friends to go to college?” he asked, watching as most people in the crowd raised their hands. “How many have had someone say, ‘I didn’t think about going to graduate school until you started talking about it’? … When we realize our dreams, we encourage others to realize their dreams (and) in this way we are leaders.”
Leaders do not have to be famous or world-renowned to have an impact, he said: People who work hard and stay involved in their communities also provide a positive example for future generations to follow.
“Some of the most influential leaders live a modest life,” Oforlea said. “They put community interest before their personal life. That’s what a leader is, and that’s what a leader does.”
Riley Myklebust, president of the Associated Students of WSU, invited everyone in attendance to practice being leaders by participating in Monday’s day of service coordinated by the school’s Center for Civic Engagement. He said MLK Day was created as the only national holiday of service.
“It’s a day on, not a day off,” Myklebust said. “It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to find solutions to our most pressing problems.”
Service projects available Monday include working with animals at the Whitman County Humane Society, sorting food at the Community Action Center, spending time with abused and malnourished horses and wildlife at Orphan Acres, playing trivia games at Whitman Senior Living or joining the Palouse Discovery Science Center’s spring cleaning event. For more information visit cce.wsu.edu/mlkday.
Thursday’s celebration also included a performance by the WSU University Singers as well as a ceremony during which four WSU employees and one fraternity chapter were presented with the 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Awards. Faculty awards went to Amy Meredith, a clinical associate professor in the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences at WSU Spokane, and Paul Mencke, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at WSU Pullman. Donna Arnold, associate director for Multicultural Student Services, earned the award in the “staff” category, and Joan Oviawe, a doctoral candidate in the College of Education, was a student selected for the recognition. Members of the Iota Tau Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. also were recognized for their work serving the community this year.
Katie Roenigk can be reached at (208) 882-5561, ext. 301, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.